Playing with mouth organs: A brief look at lip fetishism
“Dear Abby. Please help save my marriage. My wife of five years discovered an Internet browser history of 13 Web pages I had clicked on the previous day. The pages were of women’s sexy lips. My wife is calling it ‘porn’ and a ‘gateway to porn’. I feel guilty about it, but I told her it isn’t pornography. I think it’s a fetish. She says I’m using that word to get off the hook. Will you please tell her that this probably is a fetish?” (Letter sent to the ‘Dear Abby’ column in Buffalo News, December 26, 2012).
Lips play an important role in human sexual behaviour. Given how important lips are in traditional courtship rituals and sexual intimacy it is perhaps surprising that lip fetishes appear to be relatively rare (at least based on the complete lack of published papers on the topic). Maybe because lips are so integral to sexual courtship is the reason that they are rarely seen as the object of fetish desires.
“Lips are soft, movable, and…are a tactile sensory organ, and can be erogenous when used in kissing and other acts of intimacy…The lip has many nerve endings and reacts as part of the tactile (touch) senses. Lips are very sensitive to touch, warmth, and cold…Because of their high number of nerve endings, the lips are an erogenous zone” (Wikipedia entry for ‘Lip’).
The behaviour in which individuals have a sexual interest concerning a specific (and often exclusive) body part is known as ‘partialism’. In the latest (fifth) edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), partialism is categorised as a ‘fetishistic disorder’ if (i) it is not focussed on the genitals, and (ii) causes significant psychosocial distress for the person or has detrimental effects on important areas of their life. Partialists will often describe the body part of interest to them as having as much (if not greater) sexual arousal for them than the genitals. The Wikipedia entry on lip augmentation makes a number of claims about lip sexuality but few of the assertions are referenced:
“Surveys performed by sexual psychologists have also found that universally, men find a woman’s full lips to be more sexually attractive than lips that are less so. A woman’s lips are therefore sexually attractive to males because they serve as a biological indicator of a woman’s health and fertility. A woman’s lipstick (or collagen lip enhancement) attempts to take advantage of this fact by creating the illusion that a woman has more oestrogen than she actually has, and thus that she is more fertile and attractive. Lip size is linked to sexual attraction in both men and women. Women are attracted to men with masculine lips, that are more middle size and not too big or too small; they are to be rugged and sensual. In general, the researchers found that a small nose, big eyes and voluptuous lips are sexually attractive both in men and women. The lips may temporarily swell during sexual arousal due to engorgement with blood”.
As with other sexual fetishes that I have examined in previous blogs (and where there is little written academically), I went online and tried to locate online forums and dedicated websites where lip fetishism was the sole focus. However, there appears to be very little online. The types of people who claimed to have lip (or lip-related) fetishes were both male and female but provided almost no details. For instance, here are three representative of those I found online (and obviously I have no way of knowing to what extent these are truly representative and/or telling the truth):
- Extract 1: “Is a lip fetish bad? I love big lips on girls and always have the feeling of wanting to kiss and make out a lot with tongues. Is this normal?”
- Extract 2: “I think I may have a lip fetish. Whenever I see a man with full lips, or a lip that have a slight fullness or pucker…I immediately want to touch them and later kiss him. And even with my [boyfriends], I’ve wanted to kiss and suck on their lips”.
- Extract 3: “Has anyone come across a friend, partner, etc. with a serious lipstick fetish before? Now, I love me my lipstick as much (if not more so) than the next girl, but I’ve been hanging out with someone lately who seems really smitten with lipstick on me. I’m thinking of going to buy some nice over-the-top smeary lipstick to tease them with”.
This latter extract is obviously not lip fetishism but lipstick fetishism and my own research online suggests that this is much more prominent (and discussed) online than lip fetishism per se. For instance, there are dedicated lipstick fetish forums (e.g., The Lipstick Fetish Forum), dedicated lipstick domination and ‘point of view’ humiliation pages (e.g., ClipVia.com, HumiliationPOV.com) [please be warned that if you click on the hyperlinks that these are sexually explicit sites]. I also came across lip fetishism being associated with other types of sexual fetishism (most notably smoking fetishism which I examined in a previous blog). Obviously, lip fetishism (and probably lipstick fetishism more so) is hard to separate it from the visual metaphor it represents (i.e., the female vulva). As an online article at the Venus O’Hara website notes (more literary than academically):
“A pair of expressive lips, shiny and smooth, are an easy indicator of health and vigour and they draw the fetishistic gaze at least as much as a pair of attractive eyes but to a completely different effect. They recall the last pair of lips that a man has kissed, reminding him of shared breath, intimate heat and his sensual longing to return to that moment. This is particularly true if the allure of the lips is enhanced by smooth movements, casual licks and oblivious bites that signify interest, shyness and arousal in the woman. Lips can project much more than just personality. They they can show attitude, emotion and forcefulness and can be altered, subtly, to achieve specific fetish effects as well, the cupid’s bow suggests innocence, rich colour hints at debauchery and natural lips speak of confidence and individuality”.
Perhaps the strangest type of lip-related fetishism is one that I wrote about an academic paper that I published with Richard Greenhill in the International Journal of Sexual Health. Our paper was actually about dacryphilia (sexual arousal from crying) and comprised data collected from online interviews with eight dacryphiles (six females and two males aged 20 to 50 years). One of the males expressed his dacryphilia primarily through an interest in curled-lips. More specifically, he was aroused by the sight of someone’s bottom lip curling while crying. Two sub-themes were identified as characteristic of this individual’s interest in curled-lips: (i) attraction to lips during crying; and (ii) rarity of this dacryphilic interest. In the first instance, he suggested that his interest was rare, or perhaps unique:
“My own dacryphilia focus (lip curling) is pretty much unique, as far as I can tell. I haven’t found any dacryphiliacs who focus on this aspect of crying. I have come across a minority of people who like it, but it is still not their main kink…[I personally like the] protruding, curling, contorting or bulging of the bottom lip when women cry”.
Here, the fetish focused primarily on the physical (i.e., the lips, a physical part of the body), and differed from other dacryphiles (who focus on either on compassionate or dominant/submissive interests, and which both involve emotional components). We claimed in our paper that this ‘curled lip’ dacryphile was different from lip fetishism and was more linked to one of the secondary products of crying (i.e., the movement of the lips):
“I’m definitely a big fan of women’s lips in general, but I feel there’s a definite difference between being attracted to lips and being attracted to lips curled as a result of crying”.
In this extract, our participant’s interest in curled lips appeared to be a dacryphilic interest, rather than a form of partialism. He expressed his interest as focussed on the movement of the bottom lip during crying. Although the sexual arousal being caused by the movement of the bottom lip would initially appear to be linked with partialism, our participant clearly distanced his dacryphilic interest from this sexual interest by specifically differentiating the two. This suggests that dacryphilia may not only be concerned with the primary product of crying (i.e., tears), but also with the secondary products (i.e., how the rest of the face moves during crying).
Given that the love of lips (or lip-related behaviours) is unlikely to cause problems, it is therefore unsurprising that there is so little academic or clinical literature on the topic as most sexual fetishes are written about only when the behaviour is problematic (e.g., an individual seeks help for their problem, partner discovers the fetish and doesn’t like it) – something that appears to be incredibly rare where lip fetishism is concerned.
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Aggrawal, Anil (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unususal Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Greenhill, R. & Griffiths, M.D. (2014). The use of online asynchronous interviews in the study of paraphilias. SAGE Research Methods Cases. Located at: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/978144627305013508526
Greenhill, R. & Griffiths, M.D. (2015). Compassion, dominance/submission, and curled lips: A thematic analysis of dacryphilic experience. International Journal of Sexual Health, doi: 10.1080/19317611.2015.1013596.
Griffiths, M. D. (2012). The use of online methodologies in studying paraphilias – A review. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 1, 143-150.
Milner, J. S. Dopke, C. A. & Crouch, J.L. (2008). Paraphilia not otherwise specified: Psychopathology and Theory. In Laws, D.R. & O’Donohue, W.T. (Eds.), Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment and Treatment (pp. 384-418). New York: Guildford Press.
Scorolli, C., Ghirlanda, S., Enquist, M., Zattoni, S. & Jannini, E. A. (2007). Relative prevalence of different fetishes. International Journal of Impotence Research, 19, 432-437.
Wikipedia (2015). Dacryphilia. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dacryphilia
Wikipedia (2015). Lip. Located at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lip